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Merkel confronts Putin about Navalny on 1st anniversary of poisoning

by editor

Angela Merkel used her final visit to Moscow as German chancellor to call for the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny during talks with Vladimir Putin that coincided with the first anniversary of the Kremlin critic’s poisoning.

During a press conference after the talks, Merkel spoke of her dissatisfaction at how Navalny, who recovered in a German hospital after the poisoning, has been treated.

“Once again, I have called for the release of Mr. Navalny,” she said. Earlier Friday, the U.K. and U.S. slapped sanctions on seven Russian nationals accused of poisoning Navalny with a novichok nerve agent. The seven agents linked to the attack have had their assets frozen and are subject to travel bans.

Putin defended his actions by saying that “Navalny was not condemned for his political activities but [because] he broke certain rules. Regarding his political activities, no one should hide behind political measures, but stand by what he actually wants.”

He added that “Russia hit its limit for revolutions in the 20th century already. We don’t want any more revolutions.”

Merkel also said, “it goes without saying that we stand by our position that the annexation of Crimea is a violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.”

She added: “I will fight until the last day in office to ensure that Ukraine’s territorial integrity can be guaranteed.” Merkel will travel to Kyiv on Sunday to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

There aren’t many days left until Merkel does leave office after 16 years in power, with Germans going to the polls next month in an election that will crown her successor. And she was in a reflective mood during the Moscow press conference.

“I think I’ve been to Russia 16 times in the 16 years, so I’ve been in regular contact,” Merkel said. “The talks were not always easy. There were very controversial talks, also on the international stage — but they have been attempts to find compromises.”

One such compromise was achieved on Friday when Putin agreed to extend Russia’s gas transit agreement with Ukraine for an additional five years, a commitment Merkel promised to push for in a deal with the U.S. earlier this summer.

The two leaders also said they discussed Afghanistan and Libya.

Merkel’s trip to Moscow comes weeks after EU countries in June rejected a proposal by the chancellor and French President Emmanuel Macron to boost Russia ties. The divisive proposal suggested EU leaders should endorse the threat of new economic sanctions against Moscow while also signaling openness to a summit with Putin himself. The offer was immediately met with opposition from some EU countries, especially the three Baltic countries and Poland.

Putin said goodbye to Merkel by thanking her for “fertile collaboration over 16 years — we are always happy to welcome the chancellor in Moscow,” before handing her flowers.

There was a minor interruption during the meeting when Merkel’s phone rang. The chancellor quickly glanced at her phone and rejected the call. But who was the caller?

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